Tufekci, Gertz, and Silver on the FDA’s Pause on the J&J Vaccine

Zeynep Tufekci, on Twitter:

FDA says the pause is due to “abundance of caution.” I am very much for abundance of caution against tail risk, and a full investigation into rare events. I respect these are difficult decisions. But “caution” isn’t the term for dramatic, forward-leaning and irreversible acts.

I appreciate the people saying “we should feel more confident because they’re investigating”, which is true — it works on me! — but the word “should” is doing a lot of work there. Meanwhile, let’s check in on how this affects dynamics of human cognition, media and social media.

Matt Gertz:

I am extremely skeptical of the ability of public messaging to disaggregate “the J&J vaccine is under review as a precaution” from “the J&J vaccine is not safe and the others may not be either” in the minds of normal people. An incredibly crucial, high-stakes test for the press.

Nate Silver, responding to Gertz:

It’s also a high-stakes test for the FDA, and they failed it, because of course lots of people are going to take away the latter message.

There’s also data on this based on decreased public confidence in the AstraZeneca vaccine in Europe following similar pauses there. So the FDA can’t even use the excuse of flying blind.


Also Silver:

If out of the blue one morning Gov. Newsom was like “Shark attacks are extremely rare, but out of an abundance of caution, we’re closing every beach in California until we investigate more”, that’s not likely to get more people to go out to the beach, even once beaches reopen.

Tuesday, 13 April 2021